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Come have a look, make a contribution, get some really cool thank-you swag and support a rare and necessary thing: A free festival that promotes cartooning to the general public.
We need your help to make it happen.
Chan Lowe gets the top slot today for making his point in a way that makes me laugh, which is not a requirement for political cartoons, and for indicating that he's up to date on both the news and the commentary, which is.
I've just seen several cartoons that compare the large number of GOP candidates to a "clown car."
Not that they riff off the clown car metaphor, no. The clown car metaphor is their Big Gag O' The Day.
I don't know who first came up with the "clown car" concept, but a quick look traces it back to April, 2014, which, I would point out, is more than a year ago, and even then was consciously borrowed from the 2012 elections.
Use it. Build on it. Delight in it.
But when you say "Knock knock" and someone says, "Who's there?" you are supposed to have a next line prepared.
Simply saying "Knock knock" is neither creative, insightful or funny, and neither is simply comparing the current batch of candidates to a clown car.
And speaking of knowing how the game is played
Another genius-by-default cartoon, this one by Scott Stantis, and, like Lowe's, his panel is (A) funny and insightful and (B) indicates that he actually knows what's going on.
Stantis capitalizes on the tendency of (some) players to exaggerate or totally fake injuries, and not only uses it to underscore FIFA's well-known reputation for corruption, but suggests a commentary on how FIFA head Sepp Blatter has handled the crisis.
Poor Sepp. The indictments were quite a painful and undeserved blow!
Blatter glossed over calls for him to resign and refused to withdraw from today's election, explaining, “Many people hold me ultimately responsible. We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.”
And, he added, "People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook."
Meanwhile, there are currently cartoons by the bushel basket that say, boy, those indictments are a bad thing for FIFA, but that don't indicate any real understanding of the story on the part of the cartoonist.
I can be a little more generous with American cartoonists who don't quite understand FIFA corruption than I can with American cartoonists who don't pay attention to their own national politics, yes.
Until they start drawing without doing their homework.
Even if you know the subject, you need to check for updates and explanations before you start popping off about it. The burden is higher when you don't know what's going on.
Dammit, it's hard enough to get paid for this when you behave like a professional.
Case in point ...
I don't know what's going on over at Medium and, specifically, with the Nib, but Heidi MacDonald reports on ComicsBeat about some serious turmoil on what has been one of the top cartoon sites, where editor/cartoonist Matt Bors has been behaving like a pro.
I'm not going to criticize cartoonists for going off half-cocked and then do the same myself. I can't find anything on-line that MacDonald doesn't include in her report, where she reports that several well-known altie-cartoons will no longer be appearing there, that Assistant Editor Eleri Mai Harris was cut and that she's got an inquiry into Bors as to what's going on.
MacDonald writes, "The Nib is part of Medium, a start up that is devoted to 'long form reads.' Like many start ups, it doesn’t have any visible means of making money, so while the site employed Bors and paid cartoonists to create new work, as I all too presciently suggested, that model was too radical to work forever."
So go see what she's got to say, because I've got no specifics to add.
My general take, however, is that sites which aggregate comics (see the list in the rail at right) are the chief hope of maintaining cartoons as a viable form, and, within that model, GoComics and Comics Kingdom are probably doing what must be done -- put the material up for free, but then offer a modest subscription program to avoid pop-ups and perhaps access more goodies.
There is a reason syndication existed in the first place, and going it alone is getting harder by the day.
Comics fans are inundated by requests for Patreon support or to fund Kickstarters, and I'm getting to the point where I'm avoiding eye contact and hoping they don't start squeejeeing my windshield.
Crowd-sourcing for specific goals can still work, including, yes, the one I'm involved with, as well as for books, films and other one-off projects.
But the field is getting too crowded to expect people who love comics to fund every strip they enjoy, and I'm not crazy about one more system in which support goes only to the popular and viral.
We had that before, and the Internet was supposed to be the Great Leveler.
All is not lost
Friend-of-the-Blog Brian Fies has just wrapped up "The Last Mechanical Monster," and not only links to the start for anyone who missed it, but offers an arts-and-crafts project for his loyal followers.
He also offers a more personal wrap-up of the project on his personal blog, which suggests that there may be some commercial hope for Sparky and friends.
I don't think he'll mind, in today's context, my pointing out that, although he has two successful books in print, here and here, with one Eisner in hand and a pending nomination for a second, he has not yet quit his day job.
You don't hear him talk about that too much, because he spends his spare time drawing really cool stuff instead.
(Or maybe he spends his spare time at the aforementioned day job. It's all in how you look at it.)
I'm starting today's roundup with Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for personal reasons:
I've been totally slammed with my paying gig, keeping up with publication schedules while helping to plan two conferences for next month, but I got an email this morning from a parent whose 10-year-old daughter had just attended a media preview for a new art exhibit as an accredited reporter for us, and turned in a really good story.
"As a teacher, there is nothing more satisfying than watching a young person rise to the occasion because someone gave them a challenge, treated them like an equal and told them they could do it. Thank you!"
On one hand, it's strange to get praised for simply doing the job the way you're supposed to, but I guess that's a constant: I saw my father and grandfather gain that sort of recognition in a completely different industry.
On the other, they only had to deal with interference by Dilbertesque management.
Teachers today face an entire nation seemingly dedicated to belittling their skills, yanking away their resources and saddling them with irrelevant, counterproductive and overwhelmingly time-consuming demands.
I'm lucky to be not only immune to educational "reform" but to have a good boss.
Nevertheless, while I recognize the strictures and frustrations teachers face, you still have to do the job right and that means keeping your eyes open for whatever life preservers, inflatable rafts and other bits of potentially life-saving flotsam float past.
(And I'll bet that mother/teacher does just that, for her students as well as for her daughter.)
And SMBC has it right: You have an absolute duty not to confuse a shortcut with a solution, and formula-driven teaching is not simply expedient or even just lazy.
It's actively, soul-crushingly destructive.
Good teachers get that, but I remember a disspiriting conversation from 20 years ago -- before NCLB or Waiting for Superman or any of that -- with a really good teacher about the dilemma she faced this time each year:
Imagine you have 27 kids in your fourth grade class, and there are three fifth grade classrooms. One teacher there is excellent, one is well-intentioned but mediocre, one is genuinely toxic.
We'll stipulate that your students are evenly distributed among the brilliant, the average and the struggling. You have to assign one-third of them to each of those teachers, with whom they will spend the next academic year.
Speaking of tough choices
Scott Stantis continues his dismayed riff on the search for an acceptable candidate, and, while he is openly conservative, the occupants of the Republican clown car have been getting the same treatment this Hilary-equivalent is receiving.
That final line is a brilliant bit of dialogue, given the tone of the Clinton campaign so far, which makes Jeff Dangizer's Bernie Sanders cartoon a nice companion piece.
I've always liked and admired Bernie -- even when he was just a local figure -- but I'm particularly happy that he is running for the Democratic nomination and not as a third-party candidate, because, assuming he sticks to that, he can harness the energy of the perfection-seekers without draining votes if (heh) he doesn't get the nod.
And if Hilary doesn't want to talk to us, she'll goddam well have to talk to Bernie.
Between Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul, we may find both eventual nominees dragged kicking and screaming into meaningful dialogue by the unelectable candidates within their respective parties.
That's not quite how it's supposed to work, but I'll take what I can get.
And speaking of being dragged into the light
I'm not calling these cartoons on the FIFA indictments a Juxtaposition of the Day.
Rather, the Juxtaposition of the Day is that between (A) Texans who want the federal government to leave them alone but you can bet won't be turning down any federal aid now and (B) those in other countries who hate when we play "Cops of the World" but are now applauding the FIFA arrests.
I've seen a lot of "It's about time!" response from non-Yanks, both in the news and on Facebook, and I agree, but, then again, it does prompt the response of "Well, if you all knew so much, why didn't you bust them yourselves?"
Maybe it's part of some kind of exchange deal, and, in the coming days and weeks, we'll see Germany and France and the UK start hauling away American bankers in handcuffs.
'Cause we can't afford to mess with the people who run our national sport, either.
I've also seen some citations of a piece John Oliver did last year, which absolutely sums it up and is even more relevant in terms of "What did we know and when did we know it?"
I ran it when it was fresh, along with some damning graphic journalism on the failures of the World Cup as an event, and, while I hope you'll go take a look, here's the critical passage:
1. I love seeing the best footballers of each nation get together once in four years for a great tournament.
2. I hate the greed and corruption of FIFA and nearly everyone involved in the World Cup who does not wear spiked shoes.
3. I can't help but think you could get everyone to come play futbol even if you didn't allow quite so many pigs to belly up to quite such a large and over-filled trough.
And here's John Oliver saying all that, but funnier and with footnotes and in a more appropriately knowledgable accent:
Let's start with a greeting: Sarah Glidden offers an examination of how people in different cultures and on different levels of intimacy greet friends and strangers of which this is a very small sample. Go read the rest.
I have cited her work here before, reportage on things as diverse as the Occupy Movement, the Iraqi refugee crisis and hanging out with her Argentine boyfriend's family, the last of which was actually an exploration of family closeness in different cultures.
It's appropriate that I came across this particular piece through having Sarah Laing point to it on Facebook. Glidden works on an observational level that blends Laing's gift for the personal and intimate with Joe Sacco's ability to express major events in human terms.
That's not a small talent, and it makes her stand out from the trivial "this is how I feel" solipsistic diarists at one end of graphic journalism and the droning "this will be on the final" lecturers at the other.
She needs to be on your radar and more consistently on mine.
Meanwhile, back in the funny pages
Big Nate's current arc addresses concussions, and, speaking of blending the personal and the serious, Lincoln Peirce has so far done a good job of maintaining the normal voice and humor of the strip without avoiding the gravity of the topic.
It's a topic that matters to parents and others who care about kids.
I interviewed Rick Greenwald, president of Simbex, a local engineering firm that has been researching helmets and concussions, following the death of Natasha Richardson from what seemed, at the moment, a painful but relatively routine head injury, and we talked about the balance between restricting serious risks while not destroying all sports.
There is, he said, a lot of risk out there, and the goal is to properly assess it so that people can make intelligent decisions about how much to accept. I'd say that's the obvious course to take, but it's apparently not that obvious.
I'm glad to see the NFL strongly promoting a coaching program that teaches safer practices, but -- unless someone finds a key to determining who will suffer from the impacts and who will remain unscathed -- the sport remains high risk and I don't judge either parents who allow their kids to play or those who forbid it. It's a tough call.
On the other hand, I'm appalled to see the resurgence in boxing on television, which really is gladitorial combat at its more primal, especially on the undercard, where nobody but the promoters are making big bucks. People get all up in arms over dogfighting, but apparently it's okay when the combatants are desperately poor people hammering each other's brains for our amusement.
Still, there's a level of risk that seems reasonable. Heading a soccer ball can create concussion, but it's impossible to play the game without doing that, and the risk is not out of proportion to the value of the game to millions of kids.
To steal a metaphor my son dropped on me yesterday, do you drive around with four spare tires in your trunk?
Why not? Are you saying it's impossible to have four flat tires?
This article on the development benefits of letting kids be kids is relevant. So is Big Nate's venture into the topic.
Another risk to be assessed
After Rina Piccolo's well-shared diatribe on censorship on the comics page, I've been reading the funnies with that in mind and, besides fart and puke jokes, I have to say there's a fair amount of PG-13 stuff getting out there.
Today's Zits brings me back to the time when Jeremy, upset over being assigned the chore, mowed "This suc .." into the lawn, and Borgman and Scott had to make up a version that said, "This stin ..."
I'm assuming the syndicate offered papers an alternative to today's strip, but I also kind of hope they didn't, because it exemplifies my position that a cartoon should contain plausible deniability or at least fly over the heads of the little guys.
If your kid thinks "Chlamydia" is the name of a tattooed lady, this cartoon isn't going to wise him up. And if he knows what it is, what's your problem?
Cartoonists should prepare a really, really, really inoffensive strip to be sent out every time they pen something that might be over-the-top. Same strip every time, but with the web address at the bottom for readers who want to see what they're missing.
Juxtaposition of the Day
There was a time when, by morning, my bed was likely to contain myself, a wife, a small child and four medium-sized dogs. I think by the time the cat joined us, the youngest child was sleeping through the night.
For one thing, he's willing to shove over with little prodding, which is good, because, while this duvet is funny as a concept, it's not $182 funny, even if you take perverse pride in the matter.
(Oh, wait: I found an Amazon link! Yes, it's exactly that funny after all!)
As to Harry Bliss's panel, I have noticed, in that half hour when I'm reading at bedtime, how quickly the dog can get to the level of sleep that involves chasing rabbits or bringing lions to bay or whatever causes all the twitching and urfing.
However, once the book is down and the lights are off, he could probably chase real rabbits across the bed without waking me up.
Lions, maybe not.
Brewster Rockit offers some seasonal thoughts to graduating insects.
I like it despite Brewster having missed the fact that you don't become a queen after graduation.
The one who is to be queen has been chosen and raised to be a queen from before birth, fed upon royal jelly and specially nurtured.
This only strengthens the metaphor, however, because, to borrow Barry Switzer's oft-borrowed quote, these royal designees "were born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple."
As for the workers, there is, these days, both a level of increasing unfairness and, at the same time, an issue of "what else is new?" because the happy myth of stepping off the platform with your diploma and being greeted by the president of General Motors with a handshake and a job offer has always been just that: A myth.
The people I knew in college who wound up in solid, professional jobs soon after graduation had been working towards those goals all along, often pairing industry scholarships with targeted summer jobs that were part of the package, but at least building their resumes rather than flipping burgers.
Finding those relevant summer internships and job experiences is easier when "white privilege" offers connections, but it has a lot more to do with a sense of drive and purpose, combined with rare high school mentors who didn't make "getting into the college of your choice" the goal but rather a stepping stone towards the goal.
In any case, while the cost factors are more drastic than in the past, the Millennials didn't invent this one, and at the risk of dipping back into my "best of" files, I wrote about this back when Gen X was facing it:
Updates 21 years later are not encouraging, though I don't remember where I found those figures and can only approximate how things have changed.
ProCon.org offers an analysis of how rising college costs have outstripped gains in median income, though -- as this graph indicates -- they break it down by gender, which I guess assumes that Millennials marry later and will thus face the debt on separate paychecks. Or something.
On a related note, I did find a chart of median family income, which has gone way up, but then one assumes that the percentage of families with two full-time wage earners has also gone way up, so the resulting figures become less useful.
You can slide back and forth for specific dates, so you should go look yourself, but the bottom line is that, while personal income has gone from $5,651 in the first quarter of 1974 to $44,238 in 2013, that's only a gain from $22,729 to $27,851 in spending power.
Meanwhile, the median sales price of a new house has gone from $27,700 in July '72, when we bought our not-so-gently used house, to $277,400 in March of this year, again in un-adjusted dollars, but there's another factor at work here, which is that new homes were once more modest than they are today.
However, as that article notes, it's because first-time buyers are priced out of the market, and so new homes are being built for older, richer purchasers. If you don't need five bedrooms and a family room large enough for jai-alai, you can do better on price.
There is a similar argument about college costs, that, if you work more and borrow less to cover living costs, you won't have such massive debt, but that is (A) obvious and true in any era, and (B) ignores the fact that not all education happens in the classroom and it sure as hell doesn't happen at McDonald's.
But the queen ants are in charge, and they're not that interested in changing how the colony operates.
Now here's your relevant rebus:
Between Friends looks like it's going to tap into how the indirect style of women conflicts with the direct style of men. I've often cited Deborah Tannen, but I think more often in a benign form, wherein if a man says, "I'm gonna take a walk," he means that he needs some time to ponder something, and that, if he wanted company, he would add, "Want to come along?"
If a woman says it, she's indirectly inviting him and feels snubbed if he doesn't respond.
This lack of directness on one side and insensitivity to nuance on the other becomes more troublesome in today's example, because a quick, direct correction would solve the problem: "Just 'Maeve,' Jim, please."
In real life, of course, she'd turn her swallowed anger into a passive/aggressive Facebook meme and get a kabillion like and shares, none of which would do a thing to resolve the issue in her actual life.
We'll see where this one goes.
Juxtaposition of the Day, I suspect
I'm assuming Edge City is headed towards the matter of free-range children vs. the police state, which is a good topic for the strip's combination of humor and advocacy.
I'm concerned with helicopter parents and the need for kids to develop independence and responsibility, but I'm more concerned with the issue of when police became the solution to everything.
Kids today are awash in dystopian novels like the Hunger Games and the Maze Runner and Legend and Divergent, but the question isn't what happens after Big Brother has been placed in power. Any damn fool can see the problem then.
The question is how we got started in thinking that cops are the solution to all our problems, and, specifically, that if your kid is 20 minutes late for dinner, you need to put out an amber alert.
This began well before 9/11, with fingerprinting toddlers.
Here's why kids shouldn't be allowed out of the house alone: They might be struck by lightening, or a sinkhole could open up in the playground and they'd be sucked in and disappear forever or hyenas could escape from the zoo ...
If you see kids without an adult, they're in danger. Call the cops.
If you see kids with an adult, it's probably a pervert abducting them. Call the cops.
If you see an adult without a kid, he probably already killed the kid. Call the cops.
On several lighter notes:
The Buckets touches on a topic that has also been on my mind: Mattresses.
There appears to be an all-out war to sell mattresses, at 50% off and 70% off and going-out-of-business sales, and around here it's escalated from bandit signs to sign spinners to some guy driving around with big signs in the back of a pickup truck.
Having sold vacuum cleaners, this makes my Spidey-senses tingle. Nobody uses this method of selling anything worth buying.
And, speaking of scams, Wayno illustrates a more high-end form. I suppose if I went to a lot of tastings, some of the terms these experts throw around would make sense, but I'd probably need three samples of otherwise identical wines, one of which contained the apparently-unconnected-to-grapes flavor being cited.
Plus I'd need to care.
I miss the days when wine was just supposed to taste like wine -- red, white, dry, sweet -- and I'm not sure whether I am more put off by the snobbery or the inconsistency, because, for all the talk about obscure flavors, they're sure selling a lot of not-obscure-enough variations.
Back in the Good Old Days, when truly desperate alcoholic panhandlers couldn't afford drinkable wine, they'd add a packet of Kool-Aid to the swill, resulting in what was known on the street as "Shake'em Up."
It may have been ghastly, but at least nobody took pride in drinking it.
These days, Shake-em Up fans are a sought-after market, and not just in wine.
"Our growing fan base has been asking for a mango-flavored vodka, and we're excited to deliver it," said Gerard Thoukis, Senior Director of Marketing at New Amsterdam Spirits.
Best part is of drinking mango-flavored vodka is that, when you pass out and throw up all over your bed, there's a place where you can buy a new mattress for 70% off.
It made my previous cringe-watching, dish-washing favorite, The Borgias (Eurotrash version), look like the Teletubbies.
Here's an interesting and, in this case, extremely applicable fact: The Latin word for a school for gladiators is "ludus," which comes from the term for games or sport, a root from which we also get the word "ludicrous."
Spartacus began with only a few silly aspects, but, by the third season, while the sex and violence had become so gratuitous that I began to turn away from the sink to put away dishes during those scenes, the faux-Latin-English being spoken had also been ramped up over time such that the characters were beginning to make Yoda sound like William F. Buckley.
It was wonderful stuff!
However, given their penchant for faux-Latin obscenities, I had to finish watching the series before the weather was such that my windows were open.
I don't mind y'all knowing about my cringe-watching habits, but I have to live with the neighbors.
I'm don't know how Pros & Cons manages to be so intelligent and so stupid at the same time.
It's a gift.
A word about what's not here today
Between recycled cliches and inappropriate politicizing on a day intended to honor the dead, I didn't expect to see a cartoon worth singling out for excellence, and I didn't, and, yes, I looked.
I realize it's mandatory to say something, but the thing worth saying was said by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1884 and cannot be improved upon.
You read it here first. Unless you were following Anne Morse Hambrock (@AnneMHambrock ) or Tom Racine (@tom_racine) or Michael Cavna (@comicriffs) or a couple of other people on Twitter or you've already looked at the National Cartoonists Society page or you're reading this some time after ...
Well, anyway, here's who won the relevant-to-this-blog awards at the NCS Convention last night:
Roz Chast won the big one, the actual award that should be called a Reuben although they're all referred to that way.
The actual Reuben is a statuette and not a plaque, but the difference is more significant than that, because it is more of a body-of-work award than one based on current stuff.
That said, and while Chast has plenty of books out and is well-known particularly for her work in the New Yorker, it is her graphic memoir, "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant" that has brought her name to the forefront in the past year.
I talked about that back here. The book is a must-have, and I not only got a copy but have given it to people.
While we're talking about graphic whatevers (novels, memoirs, lectures), the winner for graphic novel was Jules Feiffer for his new and much-praised piece, "Kill My Mother," which I have not read yet but want to. While I don't think much of awards in general, they do have the marketing benefit of turning intentions into actions, so if you also have been thinking that you should read Feiffer's book, consider yourself motivated.
I wrote about Jules Feiffer back in the olden days, about six months before I started this blog, so you can go there and read that if you'd like.
And if you come here often, you'll get plenty of chances to read Hilary Price's Rhymes with Orange, which won for best Newspaper Panel.
She's someone else I wrote about in the months before I launched CSOTD, and that one includes a short video interview, so there ya go.
The interview mentions that she was, at one time, the youngest syndicated woman cartoonist, which I mention because she's really begun to pop up on panels and other places in recent times.
She used to be interviewed, I think, as "we need to also talk to a woman cartoonist" but is now being called upon as an articulate cartoonist who thinks about the craft rather than simply to punch the estrogen ticket, which is a sort of conceptual award to go along with the one she picked up last night.
You'll also notice that she wasn't the only woman cartoonist who got to bring home a little Lucite last night.
Elsewhere in the newspaper universe, Stephan Pastis won the Newspaper Comic Strip award for Pearls Before Swine ...
... and Michael Ramirez picked up the Editorial Cartooning plaque.
In the category of On-Line Short Form work, Danielle Corsetto was honored for Girls with Slingshots, and that one came just in time, I guess, though I expect that it will encourage her to pursue whatever comes next.
I think somebody should give her an award for knowing when the energy is gone and it's time to try something else for awhile. They could call it "The Calvin."
And the Long Form award went to Minna Sundberg for Stand Still, Stay Silent.
Finally, I'm giving myself an award for having had the lowest number of hits in at least six months yesterday, which I'd like to credit to having all my most devoted readers tied up at the NCS conference but which I will concede just might possibly also reflect the Memorial Day weekend.
I walk by his headstone almost daily. Who, indeed,
are the people in your neighborhood?
Though he's enough of a geek that he might have known that the last film to use it was the theatrical version of Battlestar Galactica, which I took my boys to, at a stand-alone, single-screen theater, which I add because of the drawbacks to Sensurround noted in the above-linked Wikipedia article:
Sensurround made Earthquake a popular "event" film in 1974 and one of the year's highest-grossing films. Sensurround presented practical challenges, though, in multiplex cinemas where separate theater spaces shared walls. Audiences for The Godfather Part II, which opened the same month (November 1974) as Earthquake, often complained to theater managers about the Sensurround effect when Earthquake was shown in an adjoining theater. The low-frequency vibrations rattled tiles and plaster, too, leading to damage in some venues; a safety net was installed at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to catch errant pieces of plaster falling from the ceiling. When Earthquake was screened in Chicago, the head of the Chicago Building and Safety Department demanded that the system be turned down or removed to prevent damage to city theaters. In Germany Sensurround movies could only be screened in single-screen houses. Subsequent Sensurround films, such as Midway, also tended to play in single-screen cinemas.
And it didn't involve kisses, just earthquakes and explosions. God knows what risks kissing ushers would have entailed.
Come to think of it, I'm a little surprised Rudy remembers ushers.
Speaking of movies
I've only just discovered Lunarbaboon through his current cartoon, which someone shared on Facebook.
And I sympathize with his fears, because I remember -- back in the '70s when we didn't know a baby's sex until it was born -- being a little afraid of having a girl because she'd be shut out of so many opportunities and I didn't know how I would deal with that.
By the time my boys were old enough to play sports and daydream of careers, they could just as well have been girls, given how many of those sorts of barriers had been lifted, but not to worry: The world of women's fashion corrected for the popular "natural look" in hair and make-up, and brought back dressy-dresses and skyscraper high-heels to rescue girls from casual clothing.
Similarly, a generation later, they brought in the princesses to get that programming in early.
On the other hand, parents still have the upper hand, and not all little girls are buying the hype.
After all, James Thurber had made the greater point 75 years ago:
One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. "Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?" asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.
When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.
(Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.)
And then there's this:
Brewster Rockit has been time-traveling to visit ancient technologies and misunderstanding them as he misunderstands nearly everything in his own time period as well.
However, he inadvertantly got this one right.
As I noted in this round-up of old cartoons, telegraphy was once a standard office skill, and, yes, they did have their own acronyms, as this Van Loons strip from 1914 points out.
I don't know how much back-and-forth of a personal nature went on between office boys or those who, like young Tom Edison, operated a telegraph for the railroad, but the ease with which they learned to translate Morse Code created what the papers in April, 1897, referred to as a "leak" in the White House.
Given that McKinley was inaugurated March 4, I'd say his staff picked up on the problem fairly quickly, but it does make me wonder about the security of information under previous administrations.
A more benign application of the skill from 15 years earlier was recalled in an article in August, 1897:
And while we're on the general topic:
We're down to the extra-credit reading now, so those of you who have to leave may do so, but an article was posted at NiemanLab about a presentation on the use of syndicated material in 19th century newspapers with the provocative-but-silly headline, "Listicles, aggregation, and content gone viral: How 1800s newspapers prefigured today’s Internet."
No, there's nothing new about syndicated material or wire copy, though one drawback of computer typesetting is the loss of "fillers," those little bits of trivia with which editors used to fill small blank spots on the page, before you could simply mess with font sizes and spacing until the blanks disappeared.
But for small papers, handsetting an entire paper every day was as impossible as having reporters write every word would have been, and until mechanical typesetters were available, external copy was sent as pre-set lead, and, as this piece tells, the editors chose the news that was placed, but the backshop was often left to fill in less crucial blanks with feature articles.
Sometimes with disastrous results:
Pooch Cafe made me laff today for two reasons, one personal, one a bit more universal.
The trivial one is that there was an afghan hound a block or two over who appears to have disappeared. I'm assuming his people moved, but maybe they got fed up with him, since they always seemed overly intent on stopping him from barking and wanting to come see my dog as we walked by.
By contrast, there's a shih tzu named Oatmeal in the neighborhood whose owners have let her out for the sole purpose of saying hello, and while Vaska has nothing in particular to say to Oatmeal, he seems to like her and will greet her when she is being walked past our house.
There's also a cairn who raises hell when any dog comes by, either racing up and down the inside of his wrought iron fence or from an upstairs window. It sounds like "I'll kill you! I'll kill you!" but Vaska, who wisely backs away from actual hostility, assures me that it's simply excitement.
The people with the cairn are embarrassed by his over-the-top behavior, and I sympathize, except that you need to anticipate that your dog may turn out to be at the extreme point for its breed on some behavioral level and that's how terriers run off the rails when they do. (Vaska also has a cairn pal, Ralphie, who is very terrier-like but is delightful in his slightly-brittle always-on-edge terrier way.)
Anyway, I always felt sorry for the afghan, because either the people didn't know what they were getting into or ... I dunno.
The afghan is a beautiful coursing hound that requires a lot of grooming and is very useful if you hunt gazelles from horseback. Not only did they seem to not want him to come up and say hello to other dogs, but he wasn't all that well groomed and I didn't see any freshly-hunted gazelles hanging from their porch roof so I don't know why they got him in the first place, poor fellow.
I wouldn't personally want a dog like Oatmeal, but the people who own her clearly did and they're very nice people and she's a very nice dog and that's how it ought to be.
I've also read that afghans are particularly unintelligent, but I've never spent much time with one, so I wouldn't know.
I do know that they are quite beautiful and so I guess if that's what you're looking for, the parallels are so obvious that I won't elaborate except to say that you ought to make sure that you are getting what you wanted.
And don't object to the amount of time that winds up being spent on grooming.
The more universal thing is that there are a lot of listicles about dogs floating around the Internet and I've read a few and felt I was being click-baited, but the one that finally stopped me from bothering to even look was a ranking of the most intelligent dogs that turned out to be a ranking of the most popular dogs.
There were a few herding breeds tossed in to lend a fig leaf of credibility, but they were placed below some very popular breeds that couldn't find their tails if they had two hands but are likely owned by the people clicking on the link.
Which I guess is part of that old "dogs resemble their owners" dealie.
Years ago, I read a more credible ranking of dogs by intelligence, and the main test was that they set up a fireplace screen and put the dog on one side and a treat on the other to see how long the dog would simply sit there staring at the cookie through the mesh before it had the sense to walk around the screen and eat it.
The afghan finished last, and, no, there's no comeback for that.
More significant intelligence test
From Cartoon Movement, another pair of cartoons for the "Why don't any Muslims ever criticize the extremists?" crowd to ponder.
While they're sitting there in front of the fireplace screen, staring through the mesh.
Dysgenics in action
By the way, I'll point out once more that there seem to be Wumos that run here that don't show up here and my bet this is one of those. The two sites are on totally different schedules, so I've got both bookmarked and this one ran on the former.
Now here's your moment of zen
I cut my hair. It happened just the other day. It wasn't increasing my paranoia nor was it in my way, but I have a conference coming up in about two weeks and I didn't want to go looking like a freshly plucked chicken.
So, anyway, I cut my hair behind and maybe I'll eat a peach and here's to growing old, mostly in preference to the alternative.
Juxtaposition of the Day #1:
Sally finds herself increasingly out of the loop at the office, which she blames on age rather than on being the boss, in part because she had a previous assistant who was, indeed, closer to her age and with whom she could also go have drinks.
The two factors -- age and rank -- are separate but play into it. I've had subordinates with whom I could mingle but there was a line with most and a difference between getting along well and becoming drinking buddies. It's rare that you can cross the line without screwing things up.
My understanding is that the military draws a firm line between commissioned officers and the rabble which is not only enshrined in the rules but in the prevailing social order anyway.
The officers write novels and screenplays in which the enlisted men are, at best, portrayed as loyal, two-legged golden retrievers (with one notable exception), while the enlisted men have traditionally blown off steam through songs that have been amended and improved for centuries.
Ditto in the Army, though sometimes one of the dog-faces gets to draw a cartoon. (Note the clipboard.)
How that plays out in the workplace can vary, but I remember going through a transition at the holiday mandatory fun gatherings, from the point where we'd all wish the brass would shake everyone's hand and go home so we could have fun, to the point where I was one of the people who couldn't shake hands and get the hell out of there fast enough.
Sally's just in mid-phase, old enough to no longer be one of the youngsters but young enough that she'd still like to be.
Or, to put it in Adam Huber's terms, her warranty is about to expire, which reminds me of a Toyota I had which rusted out before it quite hit 250,000 miles, and of which I said, "If I'd known it was going to last this long, I'd have taken better care of it."
I feel that way about my body, too, but I bring it up mostly as a segue to ...
Juxtaposition of the Day #2
Yes, I miss my Volkswagen camper, but I mostly miss being Jeremy and am not thrilled to be Walt, but goddam it, this thing about not answering your phone is uncool at any age.
I'm a neutral observer: My kids didn't have cell phones because there weren't any for them to have back then.
What they had was a watch, a curfew and a quarter.
The quarter was to call me if they unexpectedly needed a ride home, and that included no-fault "we'll talk about it in the morning" rides, though neither of them cashed that one in.
But the deal was that, if they used the quarter to call me, they got another one free, while, if they spent it any other way, they'd still get another one, but their next allowance would be a dollar short.
It worked. I'm still finding out additional stuff they pulled that I never knew about, but that part worked.
Meanwhile, the deal with giving kids their own cell phones these days is so you can get hold of them if you need to want to need to. And while I'm glad that kids can foil parental hovering by simply not answering the phone, I'm guessing some parents attach a few rules to it.
And some don't, because no matter how old we all get, the passage of time doesn't change the basics.
One of the things that doesn't change is that you can sell coffee for six bucks and some damn fool will buy it. More than one damn fool. Enough, in fact, damn fools that you can build a whole empire on it.
When I was 16, I had a summer job that paid so poorly that we used to try to figure out how many cigarettes we could smoke before we began to lose money on the deal.
So today it's how many six dollar cups of coffee you can drink, because kids are more health conscious and I guess that's a good thing but still.
And, by the way, I'm declaring that "I'm texting my boss" line a cheat. If that's what the phone is for, the joke is, indeed, on the old codger who doesn't get it.
Yeah, right. Pull the other one, Ruben.
Speaking of things I'm too old to care about
To continue today's theme, I'm old enough to remember Letterman's daytime show, and that's old.
I'm also old enough to remember when his nighttime show was new and inventive and must-see TV, and that's old enough that the fact that I don't stay up that late anymore is immaterial: I stopped watching well before I started crashing that early because his schtick became really predictable.
(How predictable was it?)
It was so predictable that my son's college buddies had a drinking game based on what line in his monologue he would ironically repeat throughout the show before -- rather than swinging an imaginary golf club like stale old Johnny Carson -- inventively, creatively and innovatively flipping an index card through the imaginary window behind him and eliciting the imaginary sound of imaginary breaking glass.
So I was delighted to find that Michael Cavna -- who is considerably younger than I am -- seized this landmark moment, not to weep over dropped watermelons and stupid pet tricks, but to mark the times when Harvey Pekar went on Letterman and the strange matter/antimatter tangents that ensued.
It is a wonderful antidote to all the fanboy schmaltz on this topic, and he even includes a clip of a Pekar appearance that is absolutely unwatchable, though probably moreso if you like Letterman than if you like Pekar, because Harvey didn't reveal anything he hadn't shown his fans before.
Now here's your moment of zen:
This isn't a juxtaposition but a conversation.
Luckovich points out the amount of ducking and dodging candidates are doing over having supported an increasingly unpopular war, while Sorensen strikes at the heart of the issue, which is that it wasn't entered into "by mistake."
To start with, it's awfully damn kind to pretend it was a mistake and that we only got into it because we didn't understand the situation.
If you want to go back and figure out what really happened, however, you'll need to divide everyone up into (A) Who was deliberately lying, (B) who was only following orders and (C) who was a hapless pawn.
Or, to use a handy phrase from history, "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
But then, to use a more recent handy phrase, "At this point, what difference does it make?"
James Fallows has an excellent piece on the vapid stupidity of the "Knowing what we know now ..." question at the Atlantic, this being a key passage:
“Knowing what we know now, would you have bought a ticket on Malaysia Air flight 370?”
He goes into much more analysis and detail, however. Go read it, share it, quote it.
I have nothing to add, except that I totally agree with his point that "The war was going to happen. The WMD claims were the result of the need to find a case for the war, rather than the other way around."
And I was showing this Stephane Peray (Stephff) cartoon to high school students several months before 9/11.
The bottom line is that "Knowing what we know now ..." is not only a stupid question to begin with, but shows that you still don't know what we know now.
Stop asking it.
And from there it just goes downhill
I praised Gary Varvel for an "I've Got No Strings" cartoon Saturday, and I stand by that: It was clever and apt.
Four days ago. The first time someone came up with it.
For god's sake make it stop. I'm not counting the number of "I've Got No Strings" Pinocchio cartoons I've seen since, but we're getting up into the "Don't you people have editors?" stage.
Now, to be honest, cartoonists seem a little uneven on the time between when they do a cartoon for their home paper and when the cartoons post online, and it's also not entirely clear if they do have editors.
I'm also aware that a lot of cartoonists have a policy of never looking at other cartoonists' work for fear of being influenced.
But four days later? Four days?
Never mind fear of being influenced. How about fear of looking like a putz?
Because, once you've done your sketches, you might want to peek and see if someone else had the same idea, four freaking days ago.
Meanwhile, continuing our discussion of not thinking through the question, does anybody besides me and Wikipedia know that George Stephanopoulos got his start in the Clinton White House?
Mostly, does anybody at ABC News know this?
Because he's already compromised in terms of dealing with the Clintons. That's not a judgment of his ability to be consciously fair. But you don't put a former White House staff member in that position, and, if Jeb Bush gets the nomination, you also can't assign Condoleezza Rice to cover the campaign.
Doesn't anybody here know how to play this game?
And then there's this
Rather than violating the Prime Directive (see right rail), I'll let you insert your own cartoon above, drawing a parallel between citizens gathering in the streets for several days of protest over decades of mistreatment with violent, psychopathic criminals erupting in a brief but bloody bar room brawl.
There are several to choose from, because a lot of angry commentators are asking why coverage of the Waco biker fight is different than coverage of the Ferguson and Baltimore riots.
My clearly inadequate answer being, "Because the two events have nothing in common."
I don't expect that to fly: Many of these same people also refused, a year or so ago, to compare how rioting white college students at the Keene Pumpkin Festival were treated compared to how rioting black college students at Virginia Beach's Spring Break had been treated a few years earlier.
They insisted, rather, that Keene's overwrought pantyraid was the same as what was happening in Ferguson.
In the Waco case, they pulled the trigger immediately, assuming that whatever came out in the first hours was all that would come out, and you can't wait forever.
Unless your topic is how it is covered, in which case you should probably wait to see how it is covered.
And so they ask, "How come, when black people riot, there is this whole narrative of 'Who are these rioters and why do they behave the way they do?' and nobody asks that question when white bikers brawl?"
I was listening to "On Point" yesterday on New Hampshire Public Radio and they were, in fact, doing a show on "Who are these bikers and why do they behave the way they do?" and after I listened to that for a bit, I flipped over to Vermont Public Radio, where the Diane Rehm Show was examining "Who are these bikers and why do they behave the way they do?"
Don't they got no Googles where you folks live?
We started today's posting by pointing out the foolishness of "Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?" and I'm ending with the foolishness of "Why is it that, when psychopathic criminals erupt in an hour of violence, it isn't covered the same way as when people in a neighborhood engage in demonstrations over a period of days?"
Stop it. Stop it right now.
We are not living in good times.
There are many, many intelligent, critical questions that must be asked today, and, in particular, before we select whoever is going to appoint Ruth Bader Ginsburg's successor on the Supreme Court.
We cannot afford to be wasting time on stupid questions.